Sunday, 13 December 2015

Downhill at high velocity!

Just to update you on the situation I am really not making a lot of progress. I am going downhill rather rapidly. On the positive front a new hospital bed has arrived and was rapidly installed by a couple of nice chaps. It fits nicely into a corner of my bedroom. It has all the tipping and lifting functions but best of all it has a special air mattress. This is connected to a compressor which chugs along quietly changing the shape of the mattress helping to prevent bed sores and keep me comfortable. It takes a bit of getting used to but overall it is a great improvement.  I usually manage to get into a comfortable position. I don't know how long I've got now but the nurses as they increase the pain relief drugs are careful to leave a well documented trail so I'm not sure if this will be the last message you get from me but I will do my best to post another because you've all been very good readers all around the world. I know that my Redeemer lives and that one day we can all meet up again. This didn't all happen by accident. We have to be part of a bigger plan, and that comforts me. God bless you, Alan Carter. (Typed by Rachel)

Sunday, 6 December 2015

I am overwhelmed by all the messages of concern and support

Well I have made it to Sunday 6th December which is a surprise to me as I have felt so poorly. They keep upping the pain relief medication but often the pain wins the competition. Practically every night round about 12 midnight we telephone the district nurse and they come and give me two injections one is to calm me down and the other is to make me want to go to sleep. Around about twenty minutes after this I am dead to the world and then wake up about 6:30 in loads of pain and Rosalind gives me my top up pain relief tablets. Because I can only sleep on my back, other positions hurt too much, we are having a hospital bed delivered hopefully on Monday it will also have one of these special mattresses connected to an air pump that keeps the matress changing shape, hopefully not too energetically.

Please forgive me if I don't respond to your individual messages of support on Facebook I just do not have the energy but I do appreciate the interest and concern that everyone shows. I was so pleased to hear that our good friend Ros Trevor had slipped away in her sleep that would have been a great relief to her and hopefully closure for the family well done Ros.

Thanks to my son Gareth for typing this blog post for me.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Slowly going down hill

It's Sunday 22nd November and I'm lying in bed dictating to my son Gareth who has kindly offered to act as scribe. It's been a good weekend, yesterday I had visits from Jason, Rachel, Naomi and Lorraine. Today my son Gareth has babysat me so that Ros could get to church and he could let the district nurse in to reload my syringe driver. This afternoon I had my brother in law John Miller together with my son Stuart and Steve Faulkner from church visit. Steve came to give me the sacrament which was appreciated. I am finding it increasingly difficult to be out of bed because the change of orientation sets the pain off badly sometimes so much so that I end up vomiting. It's not all doom and gloom I do manage to smile and laugh occasionally. Also we do make a bit of progress yesterday Jason converted an old cardboard box into a blanket cradle to stop the blankets from pressing on my toenails causing bruising. Also my daughter Lorraine brought me a big V shapped pillow which helps support me in a more comfortable position. The district nurses continue to do their very best to support me and help me be comfortable. I still managed to enjoy the programmes on the BBC iPlayer. I particularly enjoy nature programmes and documentaries. Sometimes just for a brief period I am able to forget all my challenges and immerse myself in the programme. I apologise if this has been a boring post but I'm sorry that how it is dying can be a boring process. I just count my blessings that I am not lying in a burnt out basement somewhere waiting for relief that isn't going to come.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

It is a real challenge! Sadly not a reel one!

Since coming out of the hospice things have been a bit challenging with  pain and bilious attacks  so much so they have fitted me with the syringe driver again.  This means I get two visits a day from the  district nurses, one to load the syringe and the other to check it is working OK before I go to sleep. Rosalind is a star, as I needed some Oxcynorm in tablet form, she phoned round several pharmacy still she found one at New Addington with a stock. Hurray, it's good to know you have it.

Whilst Ros was out the door bell rang and I managed to get downstairs. It was Seth from church and he had arranged to visit Saturday pm.  We were able to catch up with each other's news till Ros joined us.  Seth brought good news, he had changed his job

Because it is getting quite painful for me to type on the tablet keyboard with my right hand and my left hand shakes a bit I have been experimenting with the voice recognition function. This has led to some hysterical text.  I will try to include some next time.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Back at the Ranch but not riding horses!

Well my spell at the wonderful St Christophers Hospice had to come to an end! Fortunately I did not leave there in a coffin, Rosalind collected me in our car.  What was achieved at SCH whilst I was there?

  • I learnt how kind and caring and professional the staff at St Christopher's are and the wonderful resources they have.
  • They improved my pain control and taught me more on how to manage it. They progressed me from tablets to syringe driver and finally onto patches.
  • Eventually they got me eating most of the time without vomiting. And I learnt to avoid bending low after eating, to put slippers on, if I wanted to keep my stomach contents in my stomach!
  • They freed up my internal plumbing so my waste disposal system is working.
  • The physio showed me that a very gentle massage can be a pleasant experience and then she showed Rosalind how to do it.
I feel I made a lot of friends there and I was sad to leave them.  They had spoilt me rotten! They gave me 5-star treatment,  Well I ask you where else are you going to get at 3am for free, a top up dose of pain relief medicine followed by one of the following:-
  • A cup of Horlics with biscuits or
  • A glass of apples juice with biscuits or
  • A small tub of ice cream or
  • A slice of toast with butter and marmalade
Yes it was like being on cloud nine in heaven or the garden of Eden. 

After a bumpy drive home (I think the local government bodies are letting the roads deteriorate so our friends from Eastern Europe feel more at home), we arrived at No 5!  My first move was to go out the back door to see how the garden was, this turned out to be a bad move! Bending down to put on my gardening shoes set off a bout of vomiting and I fertilised several flower beds! It will be interesting to see what the results are. Maybe I could transform the whole horticultural scene! Anyway I staggered down the garden frightening Eudeen, our next door neighbor, who was putting the finishing touches to the wonderful landscaping she has had done. She kindly offered to get me back to the house but I managed on my own and crawled into bed.
Later that day our friends from the Church's Self-Reliance Centre, the Baxter's came to visit after a horrendous drive out of London. They arrived just in time for dinner, but sadly the smell of the lovely lamb stew set me off retching (that's vomiting when nothing comes up)! So I declined dinner but we did have a wonderful chat. After they had gone I managed to take my pills and to take in an episode of Doc Martin without ejecting anything!

I slept well and woke up in time to take my morning pills, vomit a bit and then have a welcome visit from Kate one of the District Nurses. She was amazing and explained that the vomiting was probably caused by my travelling and being in a different environment. She also explained that the large box of   medicines, syringes and other medical kit I had come home with was "just in case" stuff for use by the District or Hospice Nursing teams. Amazing!

I manage a few sips of soup and a slice of buttered bread for lunch and kept it down, hurray! Then Malcolm Ball and his wife Julie came to visit and I had a wonderful two hours with Malcolm helping me to remember all the people we had worked with and some of the exciting challenges we had overcome!  Tears filled my eyes as Malcolm thanked me for being a positive influence in his work at British Gas and I thanked him for introducing me to Emstar an introduction that helped me grow my consultancy business. Those were the days! I have been very blessed to have worked with some wonderful people.

If you did work with me or you know me and would like to remember some shared experiences and challenges do drop me a line. The best way is an old fashion e mail to ajec@hotmail,com  Facebooks OK but I am not very good at it.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Who has been helping me at St Christopher's!

When thanking people by name there is always the risk that you leave someone out, so let me apologise to those folk for starters. I have not been wearing my glasses, so I have only been able to read names when staff have got quite close (now you ladies know it was not your bosom I was looking at, just your name badge). So here, in no particular order are the stars of St Christophers as seen by me.  However, I must not forget the chefs and their teams in the kitchen, real heroes at producing such excellent cuisine. Then there are wonderful army of volunteers, bless them and last but not lease the professionals social workers, medics and "head shrinkers"! Bless them all.

Anke - the boss, very popular with staff and patients.
Dr Victor - very good and kind
Louis - super woman (such a fast mover)
Sue - the angel of the night (with the hot drinks)
Vee - doesn't like being called Vilma
Maggie - come to help from the Ward upstairs
Marjorie - gentle and kind
Rita - who very kindly asks what I would like for breakfast
Sheryle - great happy singer
Grace - dynamic.  dinner lady
Elaine -- l am the boss, so behave yourself
Christine - a kind and gentle lady 
Dianne - quick like a road runner bird
Debbie - very helpful and kind
Geraldine - happy soul who forgets to wear her name badge!
Esther - nothing is too much trouble!
Kenny - an orderly, orderly very friendly
Geraldine- cleaning expert with a smile
Michelle - a kind person
Colleen - one of 9 siblings, a happy soul!
Angela - the water lady, very dedicated
Katy - very pretty, lovely accent
Sarah - very organised gave me a bath
Susan, helper who takes lunch orders
Jill - where is Jack?
Melrose - proud to be named after a place in Scotland
Joanna - learning the ropes
Dr Debbie - a full on doctor, who rescued me from home 
Kathy - kind and caring
Dr Matt Carey - a man with a mission

St Christophers Hospice: Something to rave about!

Yesterday was wonderful for me and I continue to be astounded by the level of care I receive here. The day started by me having a wonderful jacuzzi bath. The bath was a huge brilliant white structure raised up several feet above the floor. I thought I am never going to jump high enough to get in there! The nurse (I won't mention names, because everyone will be lining up for the same treatment) helped me strip off, and sat me on this special chair. Then she pressed the appropriate controls and I was raised up, swung across and gently lowered into water ar a comfortable 40 degrees Celsius!  Having let me soak in the warmth for a blissful few minutes, she switched the jacuzzis pump on and I was in heaven! She very kindly washed my feet and legs, then my hair and back, amazing!  Then I washed the other bits. She then let me have another relaxing soak before pressing the buttons that lifted me out of the water back to ground zero!  I was glowing with cleanliness and dived into my clean underwear.
Well if that wasn't enough pleasure for one day no sooner was I back in my room than another angel appeared wanting to give me a massage! Rosalind was present but how could I resist, so I enthusiasticly agreed. Oh! She was so gentle rubbing my shoulders, neck and back in a circular motion. She then very kindly showed Rosalind how to do it. Did she realise she was adding a new dimension to our nearly fifty years of married bliss?

Saturday, 17 October 2015

What a difference a day makes!

I am overwhelmed by all the wonderful responses I get from everyone, they do lift me up, so thank you. Some responses are from folk I have not heard from in ages, those are particularly precious.

The last post from me was pretty negative, so let me bring you the latest news.
I went on to new pain killers which really helped, got moved to a room nearer the nurse's office. I am not sure why, was it:-
1.  So they didn't have to walk so far!
2.  So they could catch me hallucinating at night!
3.  So I could answer the phone when they were busy!
4.  Because they get lonely!
I'll let you guess!
Then I had a string of the great and the good: Doctors, social workers and very helpful nurses  all wanting to help me.  The pain Eased a bit.  Rosalind agreed to stay the night sleeping on the reclining chair.   I was not surprised when she told me she had had an excellent night sleep. We are blessed that Ros can sleep almost anywhere at any time. I had a good night's sleep as well but best of all I kept my food down and had my waste disposal system function magnificently!

Today I had a  visit from a psychiatrist who I greeted with a hello I've always wanted to meet a head shrinker.  He was very good and we had a nice relaxing talk.  He decided having spoken to me that he did not need to prescribe any antidepression tablets.  Then I had a visit from a social worker who was very friendly and chatty finally I had a visit from Tom one of the doctors on my team and he said Alan I'm amazed to hear that you called Professor XXX a "head shrinker!"

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Really struggling with the cancer!

Because I was in so much pain at home and kept vomiting everything up the specialist doc from St C's decided to get me in the hospice for a period to try to stabilise me. This was very helpful as it meant the family could go to Helsinki for Stuart and Helianna's wedding on the 10th.
Sadly in spite of strenuous efforts from the medics l have been steadily getting worse. Not eating and drinking has not helped and sadly I am hallucinating. Things came to a head last night when I dreamt there was a bunch of yobs attacking a patient. Apparently I got out of bed and fought with them. I remember getting hit in the face and lying on the floor with some heavy metal on me.  The nurses came to my aid and eventually, aching all over and with a suture over a cut on my nose I was back in bed.
A lot has happened since then. I have been seen by many doctors and a new plan for medication has been worked out.  I have all my painkillers given to me by a thing called a driver.  This spreads the admissions of the drugs over a twelve hour period.  Most of my other anti-sickness medication is given the same way.
90% of the time I feel horrible so much so that Rosalind has been with me most of the day and she plans to stay the night. That is going the extra mile! I am not sure how long I can keep posting so watch this space!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Angelic visitor provides more help!

A brief (I hope) up date on where we are with the lung cancer nonsense. Having had a miserable weekend with pain and vomiting (only made bearable by being able to watch all the Church General Conference sessions on the web, see I contacted St Christophers Hospice and they responded immediately by sending out an angel in the form of Dr Debbie Swann.  Dr Debbie (as she likes to be called) was brilliant, she gave me a thorough examination and reviewed what had been happening and what medication I was on.  She adjusted my medication and answered all my questions. Finally she said she would like to admit me to the Hospice for a few days so they could assess my condition more accurately and adjust the medication to suit.  So here I am sitting in bed having had my first night in the hospice.  Every one has been brilliant and I did get some sleep. Hopefully they will be able to help me keep some food down.

I think it was an old friend, Alex Barclay who shared the following quote with me that I found uplifting.
No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our character, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God.
Elder Orson F Whitney

Watch this space and I will try to keep you posted.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

The old fishermans latest report on the health front!

Now the Royal Marsden Hospital have advised that the chemo is not working and they can do no more for me, the challenge is to control the pain so that I get some quality of life during my remaining months.  This is a lot easier said than done.  Fortunately this is where the St Christopher's Hospice get more involved. Last week I was not well enough to go to my regular meeting at the hospice to review my pain control, having vomited three times the night before and still feeling rough.  The hospice kindly arranged for a male nurse to visit me at home the next day.  His name was Matt Loveridge and he was excellent.  He reviewed what was happening to me, how I felt and what drugs I was on and then he made a number of recommendations which he wrote out in beautiful script and gave to me.  I know a lot of my readers have a medical background so here is the detail:-
For pain relief - increase the OxyContin tablets to 40mg twice a day.  Continue to take the OxyNorm liquid,10 to 15ml when required.  Take Nortriptyline at 20mg in the evening.
To control sickness - take Domperidone 10mg 3 times a day before meals.
To relieve constipation - take 2 Laxido sachets in 250ml of water each day.
I also take two 500mg paracetamol tablets four times a day at four hourly intervals.
Fortunately now I am off the chemotherapy I don't have to take all the pills associated with that (what a relief!).
However I am starting to wish I had shares in pharmaceutical companies!
Two of the things the medics ask that I have difficulty in answering relates to the pain. They ask where does it hurt and how bad does it hurt? The where is the easiest to explain except that the pain is internal and varies with movement and breathing. Basically my whole right lung aches most of the time even when I am under the pain control medication. It used to only ache low down but has progressively moved up.  When the pain control pills have worn off then the pain is a serious distraction and I have to try and do something about it. On a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is no pain and 5 is excruciating pain I feel I regularly score a 3.5 and sometimes even a 4! This is when I use the OxyNorm liquid and the heat bag!  The heat bag was made by my daughter-in-law Debbie and it contains wheat, I think, anyway put it in the microwave for 90 seconds and it stays warm for a couple of hours.  I then place it on my shoulder and neck and the feeling of heat tends to mask some of the pain.
On the good news front Rosalind and I have met with the funeral director and I have decided where I want to be buried. The cemetery is called Greenlawns Memorial Park and it is high on the North Downs about 3 miles south of where we live, well away from traffic and heavily populated locations. Hopefully I will be able to "rest in peace!"  Only flat (horizontal) head stones are allowed making for a vary open and airy scene.  I bet it makes cutting the grass easier too!

Friday, 25 September 2015

So long and thanks for all the fish!

One of the funniest and most imaginative books I have ever read is The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The sequel "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe" is equally good as is the last book in the series the title of which I have chosen as the title for this post.  This post title was suggested by my son Daniel who thought I should blog about my experiences fishing when I lived in Gibraltar where Daniel was born. So here goes......

One day whilst working as a draughtsman in Croydon for the government I heard that they urgently needed a draughtsman out in Gibraltar. I phoned staff management Thursday pm, Friday am they said they had checked my file and I met the criteria and I had to let them know first thing Monday morning if I wanted to go.  I went home to Rosalind and our two young children (Jason and Rachel) and shared the news.  We sat down with a blank sheet of paper and listed the pros and the cons.  On balance we decided that we should go, but having found out that there was not a branch of our Church on the Rock and the border with Spain was closed we decided to fast and pray to know if that was the right decision.  We got our answer and so Monday morning I made the call and a couple of weeks later I flew out by RAF Britannia as the advanced guard leaving Rosalind behind with lots to do!

So having sketched in the background, now to cut to the chase which involves fishing.  There I was practically surrounded by the sea having brought my sea fishing tackle with me.  So I started fishing from the North Mole (a mole is a big quayside) using slivers of cockle on size 4 hooks and the result was that I caught small fish.  When I spoke to the locals they all said you should have been here 10 years ago, before the Spanish started over fishing the area at night with lights and nets!  So eventually I got fed up with catching, gutting and eating the little fellers so I decided to focus on sailing and squash.  It was not to be as a few evenings later I was standing in front of my naval officers house when a Moroccan chap walked past with a couple of pieces of long bamboo sloping over his shoulders.  What really caught my eye were the two large sea bass hanging out of his tackle bucket!  Wow!  So this chap armed with two pieces of bamboo which he lashes together with a safety pin on the end to make a rod and line wrapped around a coke bottle as a reel is catching decent sized fish.  And there am I with a fibre glass rod and a super Mitchell fixed spool reel catching sprats!  So I resolved to study how the locals fished.

The next morning, a Saturday, saw me out early driving round the Rock looking out for a local  person fishing.  I had nearly given up when I spotted a car parked at the back of the Nuffield Services Swimming Pool.  Sure enough there was a Gibraltarian fishing off the wall above the sea.  I didn’t think much of the location but I pulled in 20 yards away from him and started setting up my tackle.  He had a rod out and I watched him retrieve, bait up and cast quite a long way.  Then he wandered over to chat. When he saw the size of hooks I was using he laughed and told me that was why I was only catching small fish.  He very kindly went to his car and came back with a huge steel hook.  He then showed me how to put a whole cockle on as bait.  He even said you can leave half the shell on as the fish will crush the shell and swallow the lot. By now I was convinced I was dealing with a mad man! Suddenly his rod nearly jumped into the sea and he was sprinting to grab it.  Tightening the drag he gave an almighty strike and battle commenced.  The fish was stripping line off the reel so he re-tightened the drag and then asked me to hold him by his belt as he climbed on top of the sea wall.  For what seemed like an age the struggle went on until the fish, still not seen, was swimming back and forwards right in front of us.  What happened next really surprised me as he gave me the rod saying hold onto him and then running to his car he stripped off to his Y fronts (underwear) grabbed a snorkel, face mask and flippers and ran to the beach where he could get into the sea.  Then he swam round to me up on the wall and grabbed the line where it entered the water.  The next thing he upended and swam down. All I could see were bubbles, flippers and his bottom!  After a minute or so he surfaced and waving to me started to swim towards the beach where he had entered the water.  I followed walking along the wall, feeding him line so as not to slow his progress.  Sadly I fed him a bit too much line and it snagged a rock and stopped his progress, he realising what had happened swam back to free it.  The next thing I saw was him diving down under again and there was more bubble, flipper and bottom activity. Eventually he started swimming towards the beach again and I followed being more careful in terms of controlling the line.  When we eventually reached the beach he staggered out of the water with a 28lb grouper hanging from his right hand, held by fingers in its eye sockets. To try and hold it any other way risks serious cuts from its sharp fins and gill plates.  In his left hand, and trying to climb over his head was an 18lb octopus!! He spotted that when he swam back to free the snagged line.

I did manage to take a photo of Johnny with the fish and octopus but sadly I haven’t been able to find it.  We became good friends after that and he taught me how to catch decent sized fish during my stay in Gib.  That transformed my experience there.

Monday, 14 September 2015

For whom the bell tolls, know this it tolls for thee!

This is not mine, but it is what it feels like to me!
Went with my daughter Rachel to the Royal Marsden Hospital to get the result of my latest CT scan. I was pleased when I realised I was going to see the top lady consultant, Dr Mary O'Bryan, rather than one of her support team. I thanked her for delaying my chemo so I could attend the family holiday. She kindly let me show her pictures of the family on holiday at Center Parcs and then she got down to business. She said that the CT scans showed that the chemotherapy was not stopping the cancer from spreading and sadly there was nothing more that the Marsden could do for me. 
Wow, there is nothing quite like calling a spade a spade! 
On reflection I was not all that surprised at the scan results, as I had felt pain-wise there was a deterioration, but I did think there might have been a plan B! Dr O'Bryan made it quite clear that there wasn't a plan B that involved treatment at the Marsden and that I should look to support from the Hospice for pain control etc.  Both Rachel and I were a bit upset at this news as there didn't seem to be any room to manoeuvre and we appreciated Karen, the specialist nurse, who popped in to see us and offer her condolences.
Rachel agreed to phone round her siblings with the news but later that day I called them as just speaking to them cheers me up. The following morning I Face Timed with Dan and Holly in the States. If I call them at 09.00 it is 01.00 their time and they are usually up! Dan really cheered me up. He told me about a colleague who's wife was ill with lots of pain until she discovered the medicinal use of marijuana! Apparently it's legal in WA. I was wondering if I could get the doc to prescribe it for me, that and a Jimmy Hendrix CD. 
Then Dan said that an advantage of knowing that your death is fairly imminent is that using modern technology you could arrange to speak at your own funeral! I must say that might appeal to me. Maybe I could even sing and play the guitar? No on second thoughts knowing my ability I think that might be pushing it a bit too far!
On the positive side I am getting slightly better at managing the pain some of the time. People calling, e mailing and visiting help a lot, not only is it nice to have contact and hear their news it also distracts me from thinking about myself. When my neighbour Rick drops in we end up laughing our socks off and a few days ago an old friend Beverley came right out of the blue and brightened up my day.
I enjoyed watching the last night of the BBC Proms Saturday night and I said to Rosalind that this is probably the last time I shall be able to watch it!  A sobering thought!
Thanks for visiting the blog and reading the posts, I am amazed at how much it gets viewed all over the world. I really appreciate the kind comments and it reminds me that I have so many good friends. I truly am blessed.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

When I am famous!

Desert Island Discs is a very long running programme on BBC radio 4. It was invented in 1942 by Roy Plomley. The format is simple, a famous guest is asked to select eight records they would like to have with them if they were stranded alone on a desert island. Then they are asked about their life and why they have chosen the records, excerpts of which get played. It is interesting to hear their life stories and why their particular choice of music is important to them.
So in anticipation of a call from the BBC I thought I would prepare my list of records!
1. I Get Around (Beach Boys). This appealed to me in my teens and reminds me of when I saw the Beach Boys live at Tooting Broadway. Years later when I use to drive mini buses full of teenagers to summer camps playing it over the vehicles sound system always got everyone in a holiday mood.
2. MacArthur's Park (Richard Harris). I enjoy the tune and the imaginative lyrics, most famously lost love being likened to an iced cake being left out in the rain! It is long, loud and emotive.
3. Morning Mood, Pierre Gynt (Grieg). This is used as the opening music to the film "The Vikings" and it enhances the amazing scenery of the fjords. Every time I hear the opening bars I can visualise the beauty of the fjords.
4. Rainy Days and Mondays (Carpenters). Almost any one of Karen Carpenters songs could be chosen. I have selected this one because it reminds me of when I would stand at the bus stop on a wet Monday morning and sing it (quietly) to myself. It also reminds me of her untimely death.
5. Killing Me Softly (Roberta Flak). Being a romantic I enjoy the lyrics and would play this, via headphones, whilst working at my drawing board in Gibraltar taking care not to be spotted by my boss!
6. Come, Come Ye Saints (Mormon Tabernacle Choir). This was the first LDS hymn I really got to know. I like the words "And should we die before our journey's through, Happy day! All is well! We then are free from toil and sorrow, too; With the just we shall dwell!"
7. Telegraph Road (Dire Straits). This was introduced to me by Clive Mormon, a splendid fellow who I helped to develop his career as an engineer. I have played it a lot over the last few months usually late at night when I can't sleep. The lyrics are meaningful and clear and the guitar riffs amazing.
8. Jerusalem (as sung at the last night of the BBC Promenade Concerts). I find this inspiring and always try to watch the last night of this amazing British institution.
After the music has been introduced and played the presenter advises that you are stranded on the island with copies of the Bible and the works of Shakespeare and you can select one other book. This is a no brainer for a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and so I would select "The Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ."
You are then asked as to what luxury would you like to have on the island, my choice will be no surprise as it is Salt Water fly fishing tackle! Equipped with that I would not want to be rescued! Hey ho we can but dream!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Fly Fisherman has a Brush with Art!

Saw Bernie, the specialist nurse at St Christopher's Hospice yesterday for my pain control check up. I showed her a graph of what my previous 24 hours had been like and she advised me to double the OxyContin pills.  I did from 8 pm and they worked effectively till 6 am when I awoke with extreme pain so I had to get up and move about.  Not due the next dose till 8 am so I took some paracetamols and some OxyNorm liquid as top up.  Then I needed something to distract me so I decided to blog. Here goes:-

I had an excellent art master called Kenneth Somers-Yeates at secondary school.  He caned me once for playing the fool when I was around 13 years old but later when I was a prefect we became good friends. He taught me a lot about perspective drawing so from time to time I dabble.

This is a fish picture I painted a long time ago of a fine spotted trout.

Whilst doing voluntary work at the London LDS Temple I painted this view of the Manor House as seen from my bedroom window.  This has been my most reproduced painting as practically everyone who has served on site has requested one.  In the end instead of giving them away I started charging a £5 donation to the Church's Perpetual Education Fund.  This has raised well over £300.

Recently at Center Parcs I painted the view out of the lodge window, not very exciting but the only place I could get comfortable enough to paint.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Exploring Anomalies! This could be controversial?

Maybe it's an age thing or maybe I am just over hypersensitive to what is going on around me but I am amazed and even disconcerted about what I see as anomalies. 
Take for example the vast sums of money spent by local government departments in the UK in installing traffic calming solutions. The most popular of these (popular by the local governments and shock absorber manufacturers not drivers) are speed humps (which more poetically were known as "sleeping policemen"). Why go to the trouble, cost and effort of installing these when letting a random scattering of deep potholes develop, renders the same traffic calming effect for free?
For me another anomaly occurs at dances or discos. Why do people attend dances and disco? Well certainly to dance or at least to jig about, but mainly to meet and get to know other people. Does this happen? Yes, but the efficiency of the process is severely inhibited. What inhibits the process? The "disc jockey"! How do they do it?  By playing the music so loud it is impossible to hold a conversation. This explains why at a noisy disco you see so many people in the corridors or even the car park so they can talk. Sadly it is a self defeating cycle as the DJ on seeing people moving off the dance floor turns the volume higher! Obviously DJs are not equipped to be arbiters of noise levels as the very nature of their job means they are all profoundly deaf anyway!
Years ago it came as a real shock to me when I asked my teenage children if they had enjoyed a particular event such as a friends party or church youth club meeting and they replied "Dad, it was really wicked!" Concerned as to what evil had transpired in this seemingly safe environment I would "water board" them to get to the innocent truth. This current popular use of the word wicked is another anomaly as is the use of the word "cool"! Sitting in a warm and humid chapel last Sunday I was amused by a speaker who kept telling the congregation how cool they were. On reflection maybe that was less of a concern than if he had been saying how "hot" they were!
The use of alcohol to enhance an evening's pleasure leads to the classic anomaly "it must have been a brilliant night out because my head hurts and I can't remember a thing!" I am so glad that in my autumnal years not having been fueled by alcohol I can still remember the good nights out!
Then there is the anomaly of some restaurants imposing a "service charge"! If I see that when ordering I am tempted to ask, "If we serve ourselves can we forgo the service charge?
Mention computers and anomalies and I could prattle on at infinitum. Suffice it to say that if my computerised financial transactions are so secure why is it necessary to have so many system updates and why are there daily news reports of security breaches and people's nest eggs going missing?
Now to risk getting a bit political. In the days when we were either hunters or gatherers or even multi tasking at both, everyone had to make some contribution to the survival of the tribe. Some of us are old enough to almost remember, no work, no eat. So everyone had to do their bit; kids collecting firewood, elderly people watching children and most surprisingly even teenagers working! Probably even the weak, sick or dysfunctional were expected to make some sort of contribution. No contribution, no dinner! So here today, in the so called civilised world, the anomaly is that often we actually pay people to do nothing! When we do that we deny them the satisfaction of experiencing the feeling of being needed and of a "job well done"! So what stops us helping everyone find a working role, I suggest it is mainly a lack of imagination. 
When I worked in Africa I was amazed at how some of the locals could make something to sell out of nothing.  Once I was invited to stay at the home of the architect I was working for in Lusaka, Zambia. He lived at Leopards Hill, the posh part and his estate had a swimming pool, squash court and everything else you could desire.  One of the reception rooms in the house was huge, two storeys high and was equipped like a museum. On the floor were a number of very large models, in metal, of vehicles beautifully hand crafted.  I asked the owner about them and he said that one day there was a knock on the door and a local gentleman said "Mr Andrews here is a model of your Toyota Land Cruiser I have made for you".  Andy was impressed with the size (it was at least 4 feet long) and the craftsmanship (it was all made out of recycled coke cans metal, oil drum metal etc).  Andy felt he had to buy it as it was so good.  A month later the same man appeared but this time with an equally beautiful, huge model of Andy's wife's car.  The following month it was a beautiful model of the family's tractor and so it went on until Andy pulled the plug.  I cite this because it shows an interesting use of initiative.
Well I have run out of steam now but I bet you have your own list of anomalies!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Who is the angel who tried to help?

Last Thursday having been told they were giving me a break from the chemo I had a good day on Friday and even managed to visit Ann and Bill our favourite neighbours. I was feeling so much better I started thinking about Rosalind and I going away for a break. On Saturday having failed to get a new batch of 12 hour pain killer tablets ordered off the surgery website I took the empty OxyContin packet to the surgery, fortunately only 200 metres away and a lady in the office said she would order it for me.

So I had to switch to the short term OxyNorm liquid pain relief. Things started to go downhill from there on. I felt unwell during Saturday night but on Sunday morning I decided to go to Church as Rosalind was giving the closing 20 minute talk in Sacrament meeting and I wanted to support her. Also Ann and Bill were coming. Rosalind's talk was excellent but as I was poorly Ann and Bill took me home afterwards.

We had invited Alejandro and his daughter Camila to lunch on Sunday so we could get to know them better and also to help them on the job development front. After lunch we invited them to do the Church's "Career Choices Questionnaire" which they managed well with some help from Google Translate! Their mother tongue is Spanish. After Rosalind and I had analysed their results we helped them with the career selection process. By this time I was feeling grim so I left Ros to finish off and I retired to bed.

To cut a long story short over the next days I developed diarrhoea and vomiting which coupled with the pain from the cancer has made life pretty miserable. The surgery managed to prescribe more liquid pain relief by mistake but a couple of telephone calls sorted that and eventually I got the OxyContin pills.

Our church Stake President Chris Turner, and his wife Sue visited us on Tuesday evening and Ros had invited them to dinner. I joined them, unshaven and in my PJ's and managed a bit of dinner. We had a lovely chat but then I had to bail out feeling really unwell.

I then had more vomiting and severe "Ghandi's Revenge" so Wednesday was lousy but with two highlights. The first was that my daughter-in-law Debbie emailed out the link to the family photos the professional photographer had taken at Center Parcs and they were brilliant!

The second highlight was an anonymous parcel from Amazon containing an electronic pain suppression device called a Tens!  Having read the instructions and experiencing some shoulder pain, I decided to try it out.  I think I must have put the electrodes in the wrong place because it amplified rather than inhibited the pain.  Still I will experiment because it obviously has an effect.  Sadly about 20 minutes after the experiment I was throwing up the tomato soup and banana I had eaten earlier.  I don't think the device caused that. 

The question remains "who is the nice angel who sent me the Tens device"? I would like to thank them for thinking of me and trying to help in a practical way. If it was you please let me know so I can thank you?

Monday, 17 August 2015

Pain and more pain!

I am writing this in an effort to distract myself from the pain I am not enjoying. I used to think that when it came to pain I was "Mr Tough Guy"!  Sometimes when asked at the dentist, prior to a drill session, if I wanted an injection I would say "No, just get on with it"!  Then I felt I had coped OK with pain after my large hernia op and when I had the TURP procedure.  My shoulder rotator cuff operation was a whole new ball game, that really hurt!  Once the pain blocker injection wore off it was hell, but as the days slipped by things improved and 3 months later I was glad I had the op.

Currently I am suffering three types of physical pain (please don't feel obliged to read on). The cancer in my right lung means that it hurts a bit like I have broken several ribs. This pain is always there but if I keep still and don't try to breath deeply it becomes bearable and I can get to sleep. 

The "killer diller" pain (I have no idea where that expression came from) is one that has developed in intensity over the months I have been ill. It started as an irritating pain over my right shoulder and down my arm. Sometimes it would go away for a few days, hurrah! Sadly recently it has increased in intensity and as well as affecting my shoulder has moved down into high level in my back. 

So what have I done in order to fight back? Well I rigorously follow the recommended pain control regime suggested by Bernie the nurse at St Christopher's Hospice. This involves 2 paracetamol tablets 4 times a day at 4 hourly intervals, plus a 10 mg OxyContin tablet twice a day (8am and 8pm) this is the 12 hour dose. Then as top up I have 5 ml of OxyNorm in liquid form if the other stuff is not coping. They are both oxycodone hydrochlorides.  Sadly at the moment I am not coping!  I have also tried lying, sitting and standing in every conceivable position (except on my head, although that has been tempting) to relieve the pain.  Hot shower water directed at my back helps for a while.  A heated bean bag filled with wheat (I think) masks some pain if it is hot enough.

The third type of pain I experience is from the urinary catheter I still have fitted. This was fitted some months ago as the morphine I was on for pain relief was inhibiting my water works from functioning. The catheter does its job but it does painfully irritate my penis forcing me to wriggle or walk about to release the pain.

Last night after I had vomited twice (not sure why but was I glad I had really chewed up the bacon sandwich I had for supper) I managed to get to sleep before midnight. Sadly I woke in a lot of pain around 3am.  I put my bean bag in the microwave and heated it up and returning to bed decided to check out a couple of blogs recommended by one of nurses at the Marsden. So now I have visited Mavis Nye's blog and also looked at Mesothelioma Warriors web site. This led me on to find out about the Medical Innovations Bill that Lord Saatchi is trying to get through Parliament.

24 Jun 2015 - Lord Saatchi's Medical Innovation Bill passes first hurdle. A bill which will offer legal protection to doctors who try out innovative new techniques or drugs on patients when all else has failed is a step closer to becoming law.

I think this is a move in the right direction, it won't help me but I would not mind being a guinea pig if it helped other souls. In the meantime I battle on supported by my loving wife.

I got a bit of a surprise at my meeting with the doctor at the Marsden last Thursday.  She told me that the consultants had reviewed my case and decided to give me a break from chemo for a month. Then I would have a CT scan to see if the chemo was working and based on the findings they would decide the future course of action. So there was no chemo on the Friday and I had a goodish day.  Then on the Saturday the pain really kicked in!

A big thank you to all the people thinking of me, praying for me and contacting me, it does help. Watch this space!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

The old fisherman delves into the positive side of dying!

Who is this man? Read on!
We are all dying, but when you have been told you are on the fast track measurable in months or if you are lucky a few years it does focus the mind. In some ways this is helpful because it allows you to start putting your affairs in order. There are the practical things like making sure your wife knows the cost of running the house and what needs to be paid when and how. Then there are the things that worry your conscience, people you might have upset or offended years ago to whom you would like to apologize. So far I have apologized to two people and both have been very magnanimous in their response and have helped me feel better and I can mentally tick them off the list (it's a short list).
Being religious I do believe in miracles but I also believe in a loving Heavenly Father who has a plan for all of us and sometimes either because we don't have enough faith or because it's not part of our plan a miracle is not an option.  However, I do believe it is possible to have a miracle especially with people all over the world mentioning me in their prayers and my medical team trying their hardest.
I find the discomfort and pain can wear one down a bit so it is important to regularly top up the attitude batteries. Receiving support and encouragement from family and friends is a great help. One of the great blessings in my life is the support I get from my church and religious beliefs. When at the age of 16 I moved on from the Church of England and was baptised into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I had no idea of the positive impact it would have on my life. Not only has it helped me "stay on the straight and narrow" but it has given me a wonderful life, wonderful wife and a wonderful family. I have also had some amazing experiences and adventures such as running a Scout Group, managing a Church farm, starting a branch of the Church in Gibraltar, taking sixty young adults from London and Paris camping on the beach in Normandy (lots of marriages came about from that). Also being a lay minister in the Church and also a school governor for twenty three years kept me out of mischief! My former employers will be asking "How did he ever find time to go to work?"
When I feel a bit low because of the pain and the inability to do things, I visit one of the Church's web sites and listen to or read a talk given by one of the Church leaders. The video link below is to a talk given by Jeffrey R Holland one of our Church leaders (pictured above) who I have met and talked to and who is an interesting and inspirational speaker. I recommend the talk to you. Please try the link and share your thoughts with me it certainly gave me a boost..
If you have trouble with the video link you could always try and have a look at the Church's main web site. For information on what we believe try

Monday, 10 August 2015

I'm dying to have a good time, and I did at Center Parcs!

When things are a bit bleak on the health front it is good to have something to look forward to. I had already planned to take all the UK based family members away to Center Parcs in August.  When we had to cancel our holiday in Seattle, because of my cancer challenge, our U.S.A-based family (Dan, Holly, Erin, Harrison, Rose and Kate) decided to come to see us and join the Family Reunion Holiday at Center Parcs in Woburn Forrest, UK.
There were 37 of us in 5 large well-appointed and equipped lodges. The weather was good and the range of activities amazing. We have, over the years, stayed at most of the Center Parcs in the UK, but with the newest at Woburn, Center Parcs have really upped their game.
Booking was easy, arriving and getting settled no problem and all the staff were most helpful. I really appreciated the comfortable beds and the ladies liked the well-equipped kitchens and the general cleanliness.
 In terms of activities there was so much to do. Let the pictures tell the story.
 Yours truly outside the glazed side to the indoor pools.
 The 4 person floats give you a terrific ride!
 The main pool with a spectacular wave machine that can knock you over.
 Rosalind and yours truly enjoying the lazy river.
 Beach and boats.
 The amazing treetop action challenge, well run and good value.
 Massive zip line across the lake!
 Twenty mums and dads at dinner.
 Little people ten pin bowling.
 Disco crazy mums!
Alan and Rosalind with all 23 grandchildren!
Yes it did cost quite a lot of money, but the relationships and memories are priceless!

Saturday, 25 July 2015

My experiences flying, you might learn from my mistakes?

Some weeks ago I caught a couple of partial chapters of a book being read on BBC Radio 4. The book was called Skyfaring (think of seafaring applied to flying) by Mark Vanhoenacker a 747 pilot. I was so impressed with the bits I heard, in terms of language and ideas, I got the book. I am enjoying reading it and it has prompted me to remember my experiences involving flying so here goes!

In my early teens we had a holiday in a chalet on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent. I spotted a sign advertising flights from a nearby field and got parental permission to spend my pocket money. The plane was a single engine Auster and I got to sit next to the pilot as I was bigger than the other passengers. It was real flying by the seat of your pants stuff but it didn't last for long. Having bumped across the field and got into the air the pilot climbed quite steeply, then he cut the engine and the plane stalled and we dropped like the proverbial stone leaving my stomach 30 feet above my head. Fortunately as the nose dropped he restarted the engine and we landed safely. 
My next experience of flying was on my honeymoon to Austria. We flew from an old World War Two airfield at Manston in Kent in a Dakota or similar old banger. The seats were so close together that my knees were up by my ears! When the pilot ran the engines up the noise and vibration were so bad I was convinced the plane would fall apart and I would die before I had the chance to enjoy my honeymoon! Fortunately my guardian angels (or someone else's were working overtime) and I survived the flights. I also survived and enjoyed the honeymoon!
When I volunteered for three years service with the British Government as a design draughtsman in Gibraltar I was flown out in an RAF Britannia aircraft to Gib from the RAF base at Brize Norton. Because it was a military flight the plane was not allowed to cross Spain so we flew the long way round, out into the Atlantic and into the Mediterranean through the straits between Africa and Europe. As the wind was blowing from the east we had to do the hairy approach from the west which involved frightening aerobatics to avoid going into Spanish airspace whilst trying to line up with the end of the Gib runway which stuck out in the sea.
One Christmas, whilst I was stationed in Gib, my mother flew out but because the winds were too turbulent around the rock, her plane was diverted to Tangiers, where it overshot the runway! The next day she was flown into Gib but the uneven runway (built on the old race course) had lots of pools of water on it causing the planes wheels to lock up and aquaplane and then the tyres burst when they hit normal Tarmac. All the emergency vehicles chased it down the runway!
The hairy runway at Gib sticking out into the sea!
There was never a dull moment in Gib when it came to flying. When we lived near the RAF Air Sea Rescue base the rescue boat was scrambled as a Hawker Hunter returning from a sortie down the Med was informed by the tower that one undercarriage leg had failed to deploy. The pilot was instructed to bail out over the sea but he decided to try and save the aircraft by landing on one wheel and ejecting before the plane toppled over. Sadly the air speed was not enough to clear the cockpit canopy and the pilot was killed being ejected through it.

When I worked in Zambia on a project for the Bank of Zambia I was asked to go to Ndola in the copper belt to look at another building. I drove up with the architect along a long smooth straight road built by the Italians. This road had one sharp bend in it. As we approached the bend there were lots of signs saying anyone putting oil on the road would be shot!  Apparently the locals had developed skills at oiling the road so a lorry's wheels slipped on the surface and it rolled over taking the bend. Then they would help themselves to its cargo. It reminded me a bit of the Cornish wreckers so I didn't pass judgement.
Flying back from the copper belt, into Lusaka airport I was staring out of the window when I saw three black Hawker Hunters converging on my flight at high speed. Just as they were about to pass right in front of our plane our pilot must have seen them as he immediately did an evasive turn to port (left) as though he were flying a single seater Pitt Special and barn storming.  After he and I had recovered our breath the pilot came on the PA system and apologised for the aerobatics explaining that the Zambian airforce were doing a fly past for a visiting head of state and regretting the fact that the civil and military air authorities do not share traffic information.

After a week or ten days in Lusaka I use to get a bit jaded by the heat and constantly feeling you had to be on your guard so I always looked forward to flying home.  I always made sure I was at the airport on time and queued up for my boarding card. I remember seeing the man in front of me get his and then when I got mine I had a vague feeling that something was not quite right but I wasn't sure what! Anyway he went to the bar and I went to the departure lounge. I got on the plane and took my seat, a few minutes later the man who had been in front of me turned up with a boarding card with the same seat number as mine. I showed him mine and suggested he speak to the stewards.  He did and several of them asked to look at my boarding card. They wanted it but I held on. Eventually a senior stewardess arrived and was a bit too officious so I made it clear that I was staying in the seat and as soon as the plane was in the air I wanted to talk to the senior member of the cabin crew so I could make an official complaint.  Normally I would have been conciliatory but I knew the flight was busy and I needed to get home. Eventually the senior man turned up and he found us two seats at the back of the plane where I was able to share my experience with him. I told him I had been made to feel like a stowaway and I was not impressed.
So on my next trip I decided to fly Air Zimbabwe instead of BA and that led to another adventure. Going out was OK but the return flight had a longish layover at Harare, Zimbabwe and I was unsure as to how safe Harare was for a white chap on his own so I made friends with the Zambian chap sitting next to me and asked him it he would like to travel into Harare by taxi with me and have lunch if it was my treat. He said he would, but then he came up with a classic African ruse!  He said my friend is also on the flight and he is a policeman, could he come too! When I saw the size of the policeman chap I readily agreed and the three of us had a great time in the city. In the markets the locals could not quite understand why this white man was friendly with these two black guys. I made them laugh by explaining that I was their bodyguard.
My two Zambian minders in Harare.
When we got back to the airport we got a bit of a shock! All our luggage from our flight was piled up in one big heap in the middle of a public area waiting for us to pick it up and take it to the departure desk. But at least I got a seat without any hassle.

When my MD wanted me to go to Uganda to talk to a government minister there I needed help in finding a suitable hotel. I contacted one of my ex pat friends in Zambia and he put me in touch with a Zambian lady living in London. She recommended the Fairways Hotel and asked if I would be kind enough to take a letter for her out with me and I agreed. She turned up at my office about an hour before I was due to go to the airport. Instead of a letter she had a completely full heavy duffle bag and said would I mind taking that to her family! I was somewhat taken aback! After some thought I said I could only take it if I packed it so I knew what was in it. She agreed and we tipped the contents out on the table and I was flabbergasted. The heavy items were the pipe wrench, the bath tap, the bottle of whiskey and the sweets. The not so heavy, but bulky items were the sexy ladies underwear and other clothes. Feeling obligated to help I repack the bag and headed out for what I imagined would be an eventful trip taking the duffle bag and contents as hand luggage.
At Heathrow the chap scanning the duffle bag asked if I was taking a bath as hold luggage? The real challenge came when I changed flights at Addis Ababa, it was chaos with a real scrum to get on the next flight (which I could see was already boarding). I got held up by two officials who went through the duffle bag pulling things out with delight. Holding things up they kept saying "Is this for you?" And I would reply it is a gift for a friend. They roared with laughter at the underwear! This taking things out and holding them up became repetitive and out of the corner of my eye I could see people boarding the plane. Eventually the penny dropped and I realised they wanted me to give them something. I was reluctant to do it because it wasn't mine to give but in sheer desperation I gave them a handful of sweets each saying it was a gift for their children. Immediately the bag was zipped up and I was on my way to border control who gave me a hard time insisting I was the British Prime Minister John Major travelling on a false passport! It was all very friendly but I ended up sprinting across the hot Tarmac to get on the plane. We landed safely at Entebbe AirPort and I got a taxi to the hotel which wasn't air conditioned! Neither was the taxi and it was hot!
The meeting with the lady Minister was interesting, she was well educated but I could not help noticing the pile of books on her desk all about business ethics! I also noticed that in each corner of her office there was a modern photocopier. I remarked that they must do a lot of photocopying and she explained that none of them worked as there were no photocopy maintenance companies operating in Uganda so when they broke they just ordered a new one. I wonder if all that came out of someone's foreign aide budget?
We didn't get any business out of the Ugandan government but I did get to see Lake Victoria where the River Nile flows out. The lake changes its level during the course of the seasons. Instead of building jetties out into the lake so that people can get aboard the small ferry boats the locals have developed a "spectator sport"! This involves men carrying would be passengers for a fee, on their backs and wading out to the boats. Some of the lady passengers are enormous and some of the male porters over optimistic regarding their ability. The results can be most amusing!
Where the River Nile actually exits the lake there are a series of serious rapids. As we were walking up to take a look a twelve year old boy ran up and said if we gave him some money he would jump in and swim down the rapids! I refused point blank not wishing to be a party to a suicide!  Then some other foreigners turned up and money changed hands and I was horrified! But the little boy was no fool, he ran down to the waters edge, produce a plastic oil drum and holding onto it jumped into the foaming rapids!  The current swept him down a channel between the jagged rocks and into calmer water down stream from which he alighted grinning from ear to ear!
You can have airborne excitement in the UK as well. One windy day I flew out of Gatwick when the Captain announced that breakfast would not be served as we would be wearing it! When we landed at Manchester the plane hit the ground so hard it was taken out of service! Flying back that night the replacement plane was half empty, a lot of passengers preferring the train.

I bet you have your own flying war stories!